Mr. Rogers always said, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.” In these unsettling times, I’m trying really hard to find the rays of light among us. I was inspired to seek out artists that are using their art to make a better world. It lifted my spirits to see just how quickly I could find many examples of goodness.
Brian Finn of Infinite Art is a tattoo artist in Ohio. On his days off, he goes to work to transform the scars of trauma into works of art. He offers free tattoo coverups for scars from domestic violence, human trafficking, or self-injury. As Finn says, “It would make me feel so wonderful to be able to help anyone in a situation like this to move on to the next chapter in their lives. I want to offer my time to help people feel better about themselves, and to not be ashamed.” His many clients are grateful for the chance to look at their bodies and now see beauty instead of a reminder of pain.
Dave Cutlip of Maryland is also using his tattoo talent for good. He has offered to cover up any racist or gang affiliate tattoos for free. He posted his offer on Facebook with the sentiments, “sometimes people make bad choices, and sometimes people change. We believe that there is enough hate in this world, and we want to make a difference.” It started with a man asking Dave to remove a gang sign from his face and has since grown to regular appointments to remove everything from confederate flags to swastikas. Dave’s generosity has also spurred the creation of “Random Acts of Tattoo Project” which connects tattoo artists nationwide to people needing help. There is a GoFundMe site to help the artists who cannot work for free.
Other types of artists are putting their talents to good use as well. In the 1990s, Lin Evola-Smidt convinced people in her violent city of Los Angelos to give up their guns in order to create statues of angels. The guns were melted down and crafted into sculptures placed around the city. She started with 3 foot works and eventually created a 13 foot sculpture called “The Renaissance Peace Angel” (now located at Ground Zero). Recently, she has taken the concept worldwide and is working on a project called Art of Peace Charitable Trust in cities such as Jerusalem, Bosnia and Johannesburg. This project attempts to combat “the proliferation of small firearms, light artillery and other weapons of war.”
Many artists are cleaning up the environment in their zest to create. Their abilities to redirect “trash” into a work of art that is astounding. Here are a few examples of people using everything from plastics and tires to junkyard trash:
For poor children in Cateura, Paraguay, one musician turned trash into instruments and transformed the lives in the small community. Instruments were made out of anything they could find in the local landfill- oil tin cans, forks, or bottle caps. Favio Chavez and another garbage picker Nicolas “Cola” created the instruments and with it a haven for the local children. Chavez taught them music and they formed the Recycled Orchestra of Cateura. You can see their story in the short film, Landfill Harmonic.
For myself, I use a portion of my earnings to support women owned businesses around the world. Kiva is an organization that specializes in overseeing micro-loans. People looking to grow businesses, go to school, switch to clean energy, or change their lives in other ways can apply for a loan. Lenders, like me, can then add their money to the loan pool for that person or business. Over time the loan is repaid, and the lender can then reinvest it into another great project. So far, I have invested in women owned companies in Guatemala and Jordan. I look forward to expanding my reach in the months and years to come.
Artists everywhere are working hard to make a difference for the better. We all are. In small ways, in global ways, in whatever ways we can. We all strive to shine a spotlight on the strength of humanity when our lives are touched with violence or hatred. I’ll leave you with a final quote from Mr. Rogers,
“In times of stress, the best thing we can do for each other is to listen with our ears and our hearts and to be assured that our questions are just as important as our answers.”